Memorial Sign to Honor Victims of Crash South of Chehalis

By The Chronicle

A year after two women were killed in a distracted driving-related crash on Interstate 5 in Lewis County, their family and friends plan to gather Sunday to dedicate a memorial road sign in their honor, according to the state Target Zero Task Force, a part of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

On July 16, 2016, Jody Bagnariol and Elisabeth (Lis) Rudolph were stopped in traffic on southbound I-5 at Napavine when they were rear-ended by a driver going 76 miles per hour. 

Just before the driver hit the women’s car, her husband in the passenger seat was reportedly taking selfies of the couple. 

Bagnariol and Rudolph died the following day from their injuries sustained in the collision. 

“You never believe that something like this will happen to you or someone you love,” said Bagnariol’s sister, Gina Bagnariol-Benavides, in a statement. “Putting your cell phone away when you get behind the wheel of a car needs to become as commonplace as putting on your seat belt.”

The dedication of the road sign is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday off Exit 68 on southbound I-5, near the site of the crash. The memorial is scheduled a week in advance of the start date of Washington’s new Driving Under the Influence of Electronics, or E-DUI, Act going into effect. 

As of July 23, drivers are prohibited by law of holding their phones while driving. 

Drivers may not use hand-held cell phones while they are driving, stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. The law includes the use of tablets, laptops, games or any hand-held electronic devices. 

Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, according to Target Zero, and 71 percent of distracted drivers were using a cell phone while driving. 

A driver’s first E-DUI ticket will cost $136 and information about the ticket will be available to their insurance company.